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NASA Upgrades Supercomputer

Even supercomputers need upgrades to stay that way, and the NASA Ames Research Center Center pumped more than $3 million over the last few months to add the capacity and bandwidth necessary to keep its Columbia supercomputer humming along.

The project included adding 600 Tbytes of disk connected to DataDirect S2A9550 SANs, 20 Sun StorageTek T10000 tape libraries, and 320 ports of 4-Gbit/s Brocade Fibre Channel switches. (See DataDirect Intros Solutions and Sun Launches Tape Libraries.) Columbia is now connected to 1.1 Pbytes of storage, including a 440-Tbytes SGI InfiniteStorage SAN installed when it launched in 2004. (See SGI, Intel Build NASA Supercomputer.)

The computer includes 20 SGI Altix clusters with 512 processors apiece and 10,240 Intel processors, and it has a peak processing power of 62 trillion floating point operations per second (teraflops).

"When we deployed it, we thought 440 Tbytes of disk would be enough," says Bill Thigpen, Columbia Project lead at NASA. "It turned out we needed to significantly increase our cache fronting the tape, and we needed more disk and higher bandwidth all over the place. That's why we did the upgrade."

Named in memory of the fallen Space Shuttle astronauts, Columbia supports all of NASA's space launches and research.

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